ALBANY -- A week before Election Day, nine State Senate races are in play as control of the body hangs in the balance.
Republicans currently hold a 33-29 edge, after grabbing control from the Democrats in 2010, a wave year for the GOP. Through the decennial redistricting process, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) created a new seat -- drawn to boost a Republican candidate in the Capital Region -- meaning that 63 seats are up for grabs next Tuesday.
The future of some high-profile issues, including school aid, property taxes, gun-control laws and a minimum-wage hike, ride on the outcome, too.
Control of the State Assembly isn't in doubt, with Democrats enjoying a 99-51 advantage.
On Long Island, the contest to succeed retiring State Sen. Owen Johnson (R-West Babylon) -- pitting Assemb. Philip Boyle (R-Bay Shore) against Suffolk Legis. Rick Montano (D-Brentwood) -- is seen as one of the keys to who controls the Senate.
Each party has advantages heading into the homestretch.
Also, during the redistricting process, Republicans drew election districts meant to help their candidates. "I think they are in as strong a position as they can possibly be, given that they are competing in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1," said Siena College pollster Steve Greenberg. "They drew these lines. These lines, they are crafted for their best advantage. So, overall, the Republicans start out in a very strong position."
On the other side, Democrats have a huge enrollment advantage statewide, and Democrats tend to fair better in presidential-election years -- like this one. Furthermore, of the nine seats in play, seven are considered Republican -- meaning the GOP has to play more "defense" than "offense."
State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) downplays his side's money disadvantage, noting that in the last two election cycles the side with less cash actually gained seats. "I'm not saying money isn't important," said Gianaris, head of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee. "It just isn't determinative."
"Our chances maintaining the majority are excellent," countered State Sen. Tom Libous (R-Binghamton). "In fact, we will pick up seats."
"While there is more to be done, we've made real progress for taxpayers, businesses and families," Skelos said. "A Republican majority in the State Senate has been very good for Long Island, and I continue to believe we're going to grow our majority."
Democrats are pushing issues such as reproductive-health rights, a minimum-wage hike, gun-control laws and campaign-finance reforms -- issues Gianaris says the GOP is blocking.
Republicans say the election is about continuing the trend of the last two years, when the Republican-led Senate worked with Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to pass the state's historic property-tax cap and partially roll back a payroll tax.
Nine key NYS Senate races
4th District in Suffolk: Assemb. Philip Boyle (R) vs. Legis. Rick Montano (D)
6th District in Nassau: State Sen. Kemp Hannon (R) vs. Ryan Cronin (D)
15th, Queens: State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D) vs. Eric Ullrich (R)
22nd, Brooklyn-Staten Island: State Sen. Marty Golden (R) vs. Andrew Gounardes (D)
37th, Westchester: Assemb. George Latimer (D) vs. Bob Cohen
40th, Westchester-Putnam-Dutchess: State Sen. Greg Ball (R) vs. Justin Wagner (D)
46th, Albany: Assemb. George Amedore (R) vs. Cecilia Tkacyzk (D)
55th, Rochester area: Assemb. Sean Hanna (R) vs. Ted O'Brien (D)
60th, Buffalo: State Sen. Mark Grisanti (R) vs. Mike Amodeo (D) vs. Chuck Swanick (C)
This story has been changed to reflect that the State Senate races are in play.